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Overcoming Voicemail ....The Salesperson's Enemy

Aug 17, 2007
You've all been in the position where you've left multiple voicemails only to have them not be returned. Frequently the prospect can begin to hear the frustration in your voice as they hit the delete bottom. Voicemail does not have to be the salesperson's enemy, rather if used effectively it can assist in the sales process. So, just "how do we overcome it?"

The first cardinal rule of voicemail is if they don't return your call, you MUST use a different approach. Be creative but do not continue to leave the same voicemail time and again because I guarantee it won't be returned. You will also be viewed as an annoyance.

Once you've decided to leave a voicemail , do not leave your name and number because they simply are not going to call you back. Leave a very brief message that suggests your relationship and indicate that you will call again at a specific time. In a nutshell, give a 30 second commercial including your relationship and indicate a time you are going to call back. Be very specific about the time.

Next, more than likely your contact is not going to be there when you make your second call so you are probably going to have to leave another message. Indicate that you are making the call as promised and that you understand how busy they are & go ahead and suggest another time that you will call back. This time you will indicate that if the time doesn't work, their secretary (by name) if you know it, should give you a call to schedule a better time. Leave a number for her to reach you at or mention that you will call at the suggested time.

By leaving this message, you are demonstrating that you follow through on things, that you are connected to the referral source and that you are courteous and considerate. You will know his secretary's name because of the relationship building that you've done with the switchboard operator. You have also indicated to him that you respect his position because you mentioned that you understand how busy he is.

Another technique that can be very valuable in getting past voicemail is to establish a relationship with the receptionist or the operator. Typically, they have little human interaction on the phone-often they will welcome a personal conversation. An approach that can be used with a person in this position might be, "I know that you are busy with incoming calls, so feel free to put me on hold if necessary. Please tell me who might be in charge of buying cleaning supplies for your organization?" This person knows better than anyone who is handling what tasks, because it is their job.

In addition, when working with the operator if you really want a "no fail" approach, ask the operator "Who the person (your contact) reports to?" If you'd like to increase your odds of a returned call, ask for their boss first. They will probably refer you back, however now you can indicated that the boss suggested that you give a call. This creates a much stronger position for you and you are more likely to get attention. This approach is called the "Top Down Approach" and is frequently used.
Be sure to ask the following questions:
a)How do you say their name? Mispronouncing someone's name on a first call, can really ruin rapport.
b)What is his assistant's name? People like to hear their own name and it will help make things sound as if you are acquainted.
c)Does she typically come in early or late? This information will help you to know when you won't have to deal with the assistant/secretary but can talk with your contact directly.
d)What's usually the best time to call? This information will help get you through and will give you a time when you can talk with a person versus their voicemail.

In conclusion, these are just a few techniques that are valuable when leaving a voicemail that you would like to establish a relationship with. Be creative and think outside the box when leaving voicemail, people will naturally listen to something that is different. If you sound like everyone else on their voicemail they are less likely to respond. By using voicemail effectively, your prospecting and sales activity is bound to increase.
About the Author
Tim Hagen, President of Sales Progress LLC, build programs to help organizations increase sales. He has been doing this for 21 years and has helped both small and large size organizations increase their bottom line. He can be reached at http://www.SalesProgress.com or 262-240-1077.
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